Gur­net Point-backed Au­re­gen taps Am­gen vet to lead; Ex-Roche RNA chief takes CEO post at Genevant

Gur­net Point Cap­i­tal-backed Au­re­gen Bio­Ther­a­peu­tics has tapped Am­gen vet Richard Davies to lead its rare dis­ease cell ther­a­py’s en­try in­to the clin­ic as CEO. Davies, a for­mer Hos­pi­ra chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer who had his first chief ex­ec­u­tive ex­pe­ri­ence re­cent­ly at Bone­sup­port, will lead the dri­ve in trans­lat­ing the Gene­va-based biotech’s 3D bio­fab­ri­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies to new ther­a­peu­tics, start­ing from a pro­gram in rare con­gen­i­tal cran­io­fa­cial dis­or­ders.

→ Brick­ell Biotech has hired in­dus­try vet­er­an and Lil­ly $LLY Chief Mar­ket­ing Of­fi­cer Robert Brown to take the reins at the der­ma­tol­ogy com­pa­ny as it preps a late-stage tri­al eval­u­at­ing its drug, sof­piro­ni­um bro­mide, in pa­tients with ex­ces­sive un­der­arm sweat­ing in the first half of 2019. Brown, who has spent over three decades at Lil­ly, is set to re­place Brick­ell’s cur­rent CEO and co-founder Regi­nald Hardy on Jan­u­ary 1.

Bo Rode Hansen is step­ping up from a CSO po­si­tion to take the top job at Genevant. Un­like the rest of Vivek Ra­maswamy’s biotech fam­i­ly, the com­pa­ny is not in-li­cens­ing late-stage pro­grams, but build­ing a pipeline from scratch us­ing Ar­bu­tus’ RNA tech, with the aim of de­liv­er­ing more than five in-house and part­nered can­di­dates for clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment by 2020. Hansen, the for­mer glob­al head of RNA at Roche with 50 dis­cov­ery pro­grams un­der his belt, will play a lead­ing role along­side a sea­soned ex­ec team.

→ A year af­ter Mary Szela left the helm of Nov­e­l­ion Ther­a­peu­tics $NVLN, the rare dis­ease biotech is shak­ing up its CEO of­fice again. Jef­frey Hack­man, the for­mer COO who’s been fill­ing in, has re­signed as in­ter­im CEO, pass­ing the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to gen­er­al coun­sel Ben­jamin Harsh­barg­er. Hav­ing helped se­cure a re­cent loan fa­cil­i­ty, Harsh­barg­er is charged with the grand turn­around mis­sion by first fix­ing the cap­i­tal struc­ture.

→ Al­most a year af­ter step­ping down from Syn­er­gy Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals — a com­pa­ny he found­ed and co-in­vent­ed the lead drug for — Gary Ja­cob has land­ed at a mi­cro­bio­me biotech in Aus­tralia. As CEO, Ja­cob is ex­pect­ed to chan­nel both his de­vel­op­ment, fi­nan­cial and com­mer­cial ex­per­tise in steer­ing Im­muron’s $IM­RN pipeline of oral­ly de­liv­ered poly­clon­al an­ti­bod­ies, which is led by a pro­gram for liv­er dis­eases.

→ Fol­low­ing a wide-rang­ing ca­reer fea­tur­ing stints at No­var­tis, L’Ore­al and SBM Man­age­ment Ser­vices, Stephan Jack­man has been ap­point­ed CEO of Alza­mend Neu­ro, a biotech de­vel­op­ing a cou­ple of Alzheimer’s drug can­di­dates out of the Uni­ver­si­ty of South Flori­da. Pri­or to the new role, Jack­man was fo­cused on ad­vanc­ing cures for mos­qui­to borne in­fec­tious dis­eases as COO of En­naid Ther­a­peu­tics.

→ New­ly pub­lic Ma­gen­ta Ther­a­peu­tics $MG­TA has scooped Ja­son Ryan from Foun­da­tion Med­i­cine to be its chief op­er­at­ing and fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer. The high fly­ing Cam­bridge start­up, which has a port­fo­lio fo­cused on bone mar­row trans­plant, can ben­e­fit from Ryan’s ex­pe­ri­ence in cap­i­tal cre­ation and al­lo­ca­tion as well as com­mer­cial plan­ning, says CEO Ja­son Gard­ner, as demon­strat­ed in his ef­forts with Foun­da­tion’s re­cent sale to Roche.  

→ Gothen­burg, Swe­den-based Iso­fol has hired Roger Tell — a bio­phar­ma vet who’s al­so run mul­ti­ple tri­als as a prin­ci­pal in­ves­ti­ga­tor — to run its clin­i­cal pro­gram as it ad­vances its lead prod­uct can­di­date in­to Phase III. Ar­foli­tixorin, de­vel­oped through a part­ner­ship with Mer­ck KGaA, is de­signed to boost the ef­fects of chemother­a­py main­ly in col­orec­tal can­cer. As CSO and SVP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, Tell will al­so over­see  sci­en­tif­ic re­search and tech­ni­cal op­er­a­tions.

→ With its Phase III pro­grams well un­der­way, Apel­lis Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals $APLS has tapped Adam Townsend to plot a mar­ket­ing plan for APL-2 — its com­ple­ment C3 in­hibitor look­ing to ri­val Soliris in parox­ys­mal noc­tur­nal he­mo­glo­bin­uria — and al­so build a fran­chise in ge­o­graph­ic at­ro­phy, an ad­vanced form of age-re­lat­ed mac­u­lar de­gen­er­a­tion. The new chief com­mer­cial joins from Bio­gen, where he helped lead the launch­es of Tec­fidera and Spin­raza.

→ Fol­low­ing an 11-year ca­reer run­ning clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions for mul­ti­ple units — in­clud­ing the oph­thalmic fran­chise — at No­var­tis, Fabio Baschiera is jump­ing to an oph­thal­mol­o­gy start­up backed by the phar­ma gi­ant. His new ti­tle at Oculis will be VP of clin­i­cal de­vel­op­ment. Al­so join­ing the Swiss biotech: Louie-Anne Gau­thi­er, who will now scout deals for Oculis’ eye drop al­ter­na­tives for in­jectable drugs as its VP of strate­gic mar­ket­ing, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment and li­cens­ing.

No­var­tis reshuf­fles its wild cards; Tough sell for Bio­gen? Googling pro­teins; Ken Fra­zier's new gig; and more

Welcome back to Endpoints Weekly, your review of the week’s top biopharma headlines. Want this in your inbox every Saturday morning? Current Endpoints readers can visit their reader profile to add Endpoints Weekly. New to Endpoints? Sign up here.

If you enjoy the People section in this report, you may also want to check out Peer Review, my colleagues Alex Hoffman and Kathy Wong’s comprehensive compilation of comings and goings in biopharma.

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Demis Hassabis, DeepMind CEO (Qianlong/Imaginechina via AP Images)

Google's Deep­Mind opens its pro­tein data­base to sci­ence — po­ten­tial­ly crack­ing drug R&D wide open

Nearly a year ago, Google’s AI outfit DeepMind announced they had cracked one of the oldest problems in biology: predicting a protein’s structure from its sequence alone. Now they’ve turned that software on nearly every human protein and hundreds of thousands of additional proteins from organisms important to medical research, such as fruit flies, mice and malaria parasite.

The new database of roughly 350,000 protein sequences and structures represents a potentially monumental achievement for the life sciences, one that could hasten new biological insights and the development of new drugs. DeepMind said it will be free and accessible to all researchers and companies.

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In­side Bio­gen's scram­ble to sell Aduhelm: Pro­ject 'Javelin' and pres­sure to ID as many pa­tients as pos­si­ble

In anticipation of Aduhelm’s approval for Alzheimer’s in June, Biogen employees were directed to identify and guarantee treatment centers would administer the drug through a program called “Javelin,” a senior Biogen employee told Endpoints News.

The program identified about 800 centers for use, he said, and Biogen now pays for the use of bioassays to identify beta amyloid in potential patients having undergone a lumbar puncture procedure, the employee said — and one center preparing to administer the drug confirmed its participation in the bioassay program.

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Vas Narasimhan, Novartis CEO (Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

No­var­tis dis­cards one of its ‘wild card’ drugs af­ter it flops in key study. But it takes one more for the hand

Always remember just how risky it is to gamble big on small studies.

A little more than 4 years ago, Novartis reportedly put up a package worth up to $1 billion for the dry eye drug ECF843 after a small biotech called Lubris put it through its paces in a tiny study of 40 moderate to severe patients, tracking some statistically significant markers of efficacy.

By last fall, the program had risen up to become one of CEO Vas Narasimhan’s top “wild card” programs in line for a potential breakthrough year in 2021. These drugs were all considered high-risk, high-reward efforts. And in this case, risk won.

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EMA re­jects FDA-ap­proved Parkin­son's drug, signs off on Mod­er­na vac­cine use in ado­les­cents ahead of FDA

The European Medicines Agency on Friday rejected Kyowa Kirin’s Parkinson’s disease drug Nouryant (istradefylline), which the US FDA approved in 2019 under the brand name Nourianz.

EMA said it considered that the results of the clinical studies used to support the application “were inconsistent and did not satisfactorily show that Nouryant was effective at reducing the ‘off’ time. Only four out of the eight studies showed a reduction in ‘off’ time, and the effect did not increase with an increased dose of Nouryant.”

Jim Wil­son start­up Pas­sage Bio plugs in CFO, CMO; Till­man Gern­gross nabs a COO fa­mil­iar with Covid-19 fight at Pfiz­er as Ada­gio files for IPO

→ Back in May, Passage Bio CFO Richard Morris and CMO Gary Romano left within days of each other, but this week the gene therapy player has found their replacements, along with a chief commercial officer. Simona King, a 19-year Bristol Myers Squibb vet in finance, becomes CFO on Aug. 23 after a quick stop in the same post at Tmunity Therapeutics and a year at Emergent BioSolutions. CMO Mark Forman gets started a week from today and was recently VP of translational medicine at Acadia Pharmaceuticals, preceded by 11 years at Merck. And Maria Törnsén, who got the ball rolling as CCO this week, had been Sarepta’s SVP, general manager, US.

6 top drug­mak­ers of­fer per­spec­tives on FDA's new co­vari­ates in RCTs guid­ance

Back in May, the FDA revised and expanded a 2019 draft guidance that spells out how to adjust for covariates in the statistical analysis of randomized controlled trials.

Building on the ICH’s E9 guideline on the statistical principles for clinical trials, the 3-page draft was transformed into an 8-page draft, with more detailed recommendations on linear and nonlinear models to analyze the efficacy endpoints in RCTs.

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Mol­e­c­u­lar Di­ag­nos­tics Can Trans­form Can­cer Care. Let’s Make It Hap­pen.

Like so many people around the world, my life has been profoundly shaped by cancer. Those personal experiences, along with a deep love of clinical laboratory science and a passion to apply the power of genomics in medicine, motivated me to launch a company that would improve cancer care through better diagnostics. Thirteen years later, I am proud that we are delivering more accurate information at multiple points along the patient journey, with a focus on eight of the 10 cancers that are most commonly diagnosed in the United States.

Mod­er­na es­tab­lish­es pub­lic health-fo­cused char­i­ty; FDA ap­proves As­traZeneca di­a­betes drug for pe­di­atric use

To help promote public health and healthcare in underserved areas of the world, Moderna will establish a charity with a $50 million endowment.

The Cambridge, MA-based company announced the board of directors’ approval Thursday. The foundation will focus on “charitable, scientific and educational endeavors” with an emphasis on promoting public health and the access to healthcare, the press release said. The foundation will start operations once its status as a 501(c)(3) is approved.